Modernising parliamentary democracy

How majoritarianism endures in the structures of the UK’s devolved institutions

How majoritarianism endures in the structures of the UK’s devolved institutions

Scotland and Wales’ devolved political institutions, elected under proportional Additional Member electoral systems, were intended to produce a more consensual political culture. However, writes Felicity Matthews, although their electoral rules have increased the proportionality of representation, the structures of the Scottish Parliament and National Assembly for Wales have meant that a more consensual approach to policy-making has been more limited than might have been expected.

Partisanship and the gender gap: support for gender quotas in Australia

Partisanship and the gender gap: support for gender quotas in Australia

The disparity in the gender gap in parliament between the Australian Labor Party and Liberal Party  has grown over time. Katrine Beauregard assesses what measures to increase the representation of women in parliament the public – and political partisans – would support.

Does it really matter if we call Australian politics ‘semi-parliamentary’?

Does it really matter if we call Australian politics ‘semi-parliamentary’?

Australia’s ‘hybrid’ executive-legislative relationship, whereby the two chambers of parliament have distinct and separate powers, has been described in numerous ways, including ‘semi-parliamentarism’. In this, the final of three pieces on the subject, Marija Taflaga argues that the terminology matters, and the term helps both politicians and political scientists clarify how the Australian system works, and understand the political incentives and behaviours it produces.

The development of semi-parliamentarism in Australia

The development of semi-parliamentarism in Australia

Steffen Ganghof has described the Australian system at both national and state levels as ‘semi-parliamentarian’ since governments do not need to maintain the confidence of the upper chambers to survive. Rodney Smith traces how Australia’s upper houses have evolved and established distinct, strengthened mechanisms of executive scrutiny.

Semi-parliamentary government, in Australia and beyond

Semi-parliamentary government, in Australia and beyond

Australia has developed a unique semi-parliamentary system of government, writes Steffen Ganghof, which assigns different functions to the two equally legitimate but differently constituted houses of parliament. While not an ideal system, it offers an under-appreciated alternative to competing models of presidential and parliamentary democracy.

More women at the top? Why we see variation in local–national gender gaps for elected assemblies

More women at the top? Why we see variation in local–national gender gaps for elected assemblies

There is considerable variation in the representation of women in elected chambers between different levels of government, but the differences are not uniform between countries. By examining the unusual case of Germany, where the representation of women is greater at higher echelons, Jessica Fortin-Rittberger, Christina Eder, Corinna Kroeber and Vanessa Marent find that the nature of the party system is crucial, in particular the strength of left-leaning and minor parties, which has implications for understanding levels of representation in other democracies.

The UK and Canada: democratic legitimacy could matter more than geographic representation in the upper chamber

The UK and Canada: democratic legitimacy could matter more than geographic representation in the upper chamber

Upper chambers have the potential to represent different geographic groups within a multinational state, and so accommodate minority identities. However, research by Mike Medeiros, Damien Bol and Richard Nadeau indicates that, though there is support for democratic reform of the House of Lords and Senate in Scotland and Quebec respectively, there is, in fact, greater support for central democratic reform than for subnational representation.

A citizens’ convention for UK democracy is more necessary with every passing day

A citizens’ convention for UK democracy is more necessary with every passing day

Many democratic societies have benefited from establishing conventions of citizens chosen at random to deliberate on major constitutional questions. Now is the time for the UK to have its own citizens’ convention, argue Graham Allen and Andrew Blick, to rebuild and renew our fractured representative democracy.  

Engaging the public with the scrutiny of legislation requires more than just asking for their views

Engaging the public with the scrutiny of legislation requires more than just asking for their views

Cristina Leston-Bandeira and Louise Thompson examine the impact of a stage of the legislative process piloted by the House of Commons in 2013, during which the public were invited to comment on a bill undergoing parliamentary scrutiny. They explain why, despite an impressive response, the Public Reading Stage failed to make much of an impact.

The optics of a cabinet reshuffle: PR vs reality

The optics of a cabinet reshuffle: PR vs reality

Increasing the number of women in Cabinet is widely perceived as a positive move, and Theresa May’s January reshuffle was presented as a bold step to make the government more diverse, writes Jessica Smith (Birkbeck). However, it failed to fulfil its own promises, and so missed an opportunity to create significant change in levels of representation at the top.